I set my alarm last night, and was up before the crack of dawn this morning to prepare for my umpteenth Christmas Bird Count (CBC) this morning. I opted out of driving to Folkston for a pre-count meeting at 6:15, and just met the group I would be counting with on the refuge a little after 7:00. This would be the first time I would do a CBC from a boat rather than by car or on foot. (on foot was out for me this year)
Before we headed out into the real swamp, we had a few stops to make to try to find some red-cockaded woodpeckers. Even though it was raining, we were able to find nine of these rare little birds between two locations. Cool beans!
There were four members in our group today. Our leader was Art, a supervisory ranger, who was spending his last day before retirement getting paid to watch and count birds. What a way to end a career! He would be piloting our boat. Besides the two of us, there was a woman who had done the CBC on the refuge in a boat for years and years, and a brand new staff member to the refuge. Since Art was driving the boat, he asked who would be the recorder for our count. The new staff member stated she was coming to take pictures. Okay, so I volunteered to be recorder.
To answer a commenter’s question, we identify and count every different species we see while we are out and record how many of each species are seen. With four observers, my job was to keep track of every sighting that was called out. That certainly didn’t leave me much time for photography. I really didn’t mind though, since the damp dreary conditions didn’t make for stunning photos anyway, and I’ve always enjoyed the excitement and challenge of trying to find every bird possible and documenting it.
Even with the iffy weather, we weren’t the only ones on the water. We ran into several groups of canoers/kayakers that were plying the waters in the Federally designated Wilderness Area. It amazes me how many people secure advance reservations to paddle these wilderness areas and camp for several nights at designated sites no matter what time of year it is.
We stopped for lunch at the Roundtop camping platform for our only pit stop of the day. It was quite a challenge for me to literally crawl out of the boat to get on the platform. I needed all the help that was offered to accomplish that, but nature’s call made it mandatory. Carol, our more elderly counter, must have a bladder of steel as she never once got out of the boat during our long trip.
We covered well over twenty miles in our travels through the swamp today, and despite the weather, it was a productive bird day in the Suwannee Canal and in the Chase and Chesser watery prairies. Sure beat doing the CBCs I used to do in cold and snowy upstate New York! Not that it was balmy here. I had on many layers including my winter coat, gloves, winter hat, and an outer layer of wind/rain pants.
It was ten hours before I returned to the rig. Emma was thrilled when I immediately took her out, and we soon had the arrival of new neighbors. Another volunteer couple drove in. I think I’ll head to bed early tonight. I’m pooped, and I have to work tomorrow.
Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later, Judy